In Turkey, the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Turkish: Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı, normally referred to simply as the Diyanet) is an official state institution established in 1924 under article 136 of the Constitution of Turkey by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey as a successor to the Shaykh al-Islām after the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate.[1]

As specified by law, the duties of the Diyanet are “to execute the works concerning the beliefs, worship, and ethics of Islam, enlighten the public about their religion, and administer the sacred worshiping places”.[2] The Diyanet drafts a weekly sermon delivered at the nation’s 85,000 mosques and more than 2,000 mosques abroad that function under the directorate. It provides Quranic education for children and trains and employs all of Turkey’s imams, who are technically considered civil servants.[3] It has been criticized for ignoring the Islamic creed of the 33–40% of Turkey's population that is not Hanafi Sunni Muslim.[4]

Started from 2006 the Diyanet was "beefed up", and by 2015 its budget had increased fourfold,[5][6] and staff doubled to nearly 150,000.[5] In 2012 it opened a television station,[4] now broadcasting 24 hours a day.[5] It has expanded Quranic education to early ages and boarding schools – "enabling the full immersion of young children in a religious lifestyle"[4] – and now issues fatawa on demand.

According to some observers (David Lepeska, Svante Cornell), since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, the mission of the Diyanet has changed – from one of exercising state oversight over religious affairs and ensuring that religion did not challenge the Turkish republic’s "ostensibly secular identity", to that of promoting mainstream Hanafi Sunni Islam, "a conservative lifestyle at home, and projecting "Turkish Islam abroad".[5]

Activities and history

In 1984, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (Diyanet İşleri Türk İslam Birliği, or DİTİB) was opened in Germany to cater for the religious needs of the large Turkish minority there.

At least prior to 2010, the Diyanet had taken some non-traditional stances on gender and health issues. In 2005 450 women were appointed Vaizes (which are more senior than Imams) by the Diyanet,[7] and it allows in vitro fertilisation and birth control pills.[8][9]

In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI travelled by car to the Diyanet, where he met with its then president, Ali Bardakoğlu, and with various Turkish Muslim leaders, among them the Grand Mufti of Ankara and the Grand Mufti of Istanbul.[10] Bardakoglu's successor was less accomdating, publicly called the Pope “immoral” in 2015 over his stance on the Armenian genocide.[4]

Turkish Muslims outside the Diyanet

Diyanet has been criticized for following mainstream Hanafi Sunni Islam and being "indifferent to the diversity of Turkish Islam", i.e. the non-Hanafi who make up "a third to two fifths" of Turkey's population.[4] Non-Hanafi self-identified Muslims in Turkey include "about 15 million Alevis, perhaps three million Shi’a, and over a million Nusayris (Alawites)", plus the 12–15 million Sunni Kurds who follow the Shafi’i and not the Hanafi school.[4]

2010 and after

In 2010-2011, Diyanet began its transformation to "a supersized government bureaucracy for the promotion of Sunni Islam".[4] Diyanet chairman Ali Bardakoğlu, who had been appointed by a secularist president, was fired in late 2010 and replaced by Mehmet Görmez.[4] In 2010, while the AKP was involved in policy changes that ended bans on hijab, Bardakoğlu refused to recommend that Muslim women wear the hijab, saying the religion does not require it.[4]

Under the AKP government, the budget of the Diyanet quadrupled to over $2 billion by 2015, making its budget allocation 40 percent greater than the Ministry of the Interior’s and equal to those of the Foreign, Energy, and Culture and Tourism ministries combined.[5] It now employs between 120,000[4] and 150,000 employees.[4][5][11]

The Diyanet runs İmam Hatip schools for training Imams and offers Qur’an courses. Reforms undertaken in 2012 have led to what one Turkish commentator called “the removal, in practice, of one of the most important laws of the revolution, the Tevhid-i Tedrisat (unity of education)".[4][12]

In 2012, Turkish President Abdullah Gül visited the institution and said “it is undoubtedly one of the most important duties of the Religious Affairs Directorate [i.e. the Diyanet] to teach our religion to our people in the most correct, clear and concise way and steer them away from superstition”.[13]

The Diyanet has been accused of serving for the ruling AKP party,[4] and of lavish spending (an expensive car and jacuzzi for its head Mehmet Görmez).[14]

In July 2016, Mehmet Bayraktutar, the head of Diyanet proposed a ban on the interactive mobile game Pokémon Go, as it undermined "the prominence and significance of mosques, which are the most beautiful worship places in Islam”.[15]

Following the July 2016 coup attempt, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan removed 492 religious officials from the Diyanet.[9]

Also in 2016, Diyanet instructed affiliated imams and religious instances to collect detailed information on the Gülen movement. It handed 50 intelligence reports from 38 countries over to the Turkish parliament.[16][17][18]

In 2018 Mustafa Çağrıcı claimed “The Diyanet of today has a more Islamist, more Arab worldview”.[19]


The Diyanet began issuing fatawa on request sometime after 2011, and their number has been "rising rapidly".[4] Among the activities it found forbidden (haram) in Islam over a one year period ending in late 2015 were: "feeding dogs at home, celebrating the western New Year, lotteries, and tattoos".[4] (Although the Diyanet is a governmental body, its fatawa do not have the force of law in Turkey.)[4]

One activity the Diyanet has not forbidden is the use of toilet paper. In a April 2015 fatwa that made news outside of Turkey's borders,[4] the Diyanet ruled its usage permissible within Islam though it emphasized that water should be the primary source of cleansing.[20]

Fatawa of the Diyanet that have come under criticism from some members of the Turkish public include an early 2016 ruling that engaged couples should not hold hands or spend alone time during their engagement period.[21][22]

In January 2016 a controversy arose over a fatwa which briefly appeared on the fatwa section of the Diyanet website, answering a reader's question on whether a man's marriage would become invalid marriage from a religious perspective if the man felt sexual desire for his daughter. The Diyanet posted a reply stating that there was a difference of opinion on the matter among Islam’s different Madhhab (schools of religious jurisprudence). “For some, a father kissing his daughter with lust or caressing her with desire has no effect on the man’s marriage,” but the Hanafi school believed that the daughter’s mother would become haram (forbidden) to such a man. A "social media storm" ensued with "scores of users appealed to the Telecommunications Presidency’s Internet Hotline accusing Turkey’s top religious body of `encouraging child abuse`.” The Diyanet subsequently removed the answer from its website, posting that the fatwa page was “under repair.” It later issued an official statement to the press, insisting that its response was distorted through “tricks, wiliness and wordplay” aiming to discredit the institution, and that it would take legal action against news reports of the response.[22][23][Note 1]

In February 2018, Diyanet stated that using left hand for eating or drinking is not desirable, warning that “demons eat and drink with their left hand.” Diyanet added that people with physical disabilities could use their left hand if necessary.[25]

List of Presidents

The following people have presided over the institution:[26]

Name Tenure
Began End
Mehmet Rifat Börekçi 1924 1941
Ord. Prof. Şerafettin Yaltkaya 1941 1947
Ahmet Hamdi Akseki 1947 1951
Eyüp Sabri Hayırlıoğlu 1951 1960
Ömer Nasuhi Bilmen 1960 1961
Hasan Hüsnü Erdem 1961 1964
Mehmet Tevfik Gerçeker 1964 1965
İbrahim Bedrettin Elmalılı 1965 1966
Ali Rıza Hakses 1966 1968
Lütfi Doğan 1968 1972
Dr. Lütfi Doğan 1972 1976
Prof. Dr. Süleyman Ateş 1976 1978
Dr. Tayyar Altıkulaç 1978 1986
Prof. Dr. Mustafa Sait Yazıcıoğlu 1986 1992
Mehmet Nuri Yılmaz 1992 2003
Ali Bardakoğlu 2003 2010
Mehmet Görmez 2010 2017
Ali Erbaş 2017 -

See also


  1. ^ According to a 2015 Freedom House report, authorities in Turkey "continued to aggressively use the penal code, criminal defamation laws, and the antiterrorism law to crack down on journalists and media outlets. Verbal attacks on journalists by senior politicians—including Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the incumbent prime minister who was elected president in August—were often followed by harassment and even death threats against the targeted journalists on social media."[24]


  1. ^ Hata Sayfasi. "The Constitution of the Republic of Turkey" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-06-07. Retrieved 2013-09-28. 
  2. ^ Basic Principles, Aims And Objectives Archived 2011-12-19 at the Wayback Machine., Presidency of Religious Affairs
  3. ^ "Top cleric delivers Friday sermon in Mardin". Retrieved 2016-07-21. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Cornell, Svante (2015-10-09). "The Rise of Diyanet: the Politicization of Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs". Retrieved 2016-07-27. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Lepeska, David (17 May 2015). "Turkey Casts the Diyanet". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  6. ^ "2006 Mali Yilin Bütçesi" (in Turkish). Alo Maliye. Archived from the original on 2008-10-04. Retrieved 2008-08-22. 
  7. ^ Jones, Dorian (2005). "Challenging Traditional Gender Roles". DEUTSCHE WELLE/DW-WORLD.DE. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  8. ^ "Pope bans, Turkey allows". Retrieved 2013-09-28. [permanent dead link]
  9. ^ a b Farley, Harry (20 July 2016). "Turkey's President Erdogan removes 492 religious staff as he imposes conservative Islam". christian today. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  10. ^ "Pope's speech at Turkey's Diyanet". 2006-11-29. Retrieved 2013-09-28. 
  11. ^ "2006 Mali Yilin Bütçesi" (in Turkish). Alo Maliye. Archived from the original on 2008-10-04. Retrieved 2008-08-22. 
  12. ^ Cornell, Svante E. (2 September 2015). "The Islamization of Turkey: Erdoğan's Education Reforms". Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  13. ^ "Gül first Turkish president to visit Diyanet in 33 years". World Bulletin. Retrieved 2013-09-28. 
  14. ^ Tremblay, Pinar (April 29, 2015). "Is Erdogan signaling end of secularism in Turkey?". Al Monitor. Retrieved 25 July 2016. 
  15. ^ "Turkey's union of imams proposes ban on Pokemon Go". hurriyet. 14 July 2016. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  16. ^ "Turkse moskeeën in België gevraagd te spioneren voor Turkse overheid" (in Dutch). Knack. 13 December 2016. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  17. ^ "Diyanet gathers intelligence on suspected Gülenists via imams in 38 countries". Hürriyet Daily News. 7 December 2016. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  18. ^ "Türkische Imame spionieren in Deutschland für Erdogan" (in German). Die Welt. 9 December 2016. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  19. ^ "Turkey's religious authority surrenders to political Islam". The Economist. 18 January 2018. Retrieved 19 January 2018. 
  20. ^ Özgenç, Meltem (7 April 2015). "Turkey's top religious body allows toilet paper". hurriyet. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  21. ^ "Turkey's religious body says engaged couples should not hold hands". Doğan News Agency. 4 January 2016. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  22. ^ a b "Turkey's Diyanet denies responsibility in controversial fatwa on father's lust for daughter". hurriyet. 8 January 2016. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  23. ^ Tremblay, Pinar (January 15, 2016). "Incest fatwa lands Turkish religious directorate in hot water". al-monitor. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  24. ^ Freedom House, Turkey 2015 Press Freedom report
  25. ^ Demons use their left hand to eat: Turkey’s top religious body
  26. ^ Former presidents Archived 2008-04-23 at the Wayback Machine., Presidency of Religious Affairs (in Turkish)

External links

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